It Was Running When I Parked It

  • For the Love of Old Cars

    September 24, 2019 by

    Once you start looking, you see them everywhere — in barns, cornfields, alongside mountain roads, in driveways angling off city streets. There’s the faded pickup that delivered prescriptions from a long-closed family pharmacy; the derelict sedan that once hauled scabby-kneed boys to Sunday school; the tattered ragtop that in its prime turned as many heads… Read more

  • No. 154: ‘He was born in Pennsylvania…’

    October 30, 2020 by

    “His wife’s name is ol’ ” — but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. GMC trucks, like their nearly identical cousins at Chevrolet, rolled out a radically different machine in the spring of 1955. Gone were the billowy fenders and tiny windshields, the narrow cab and just as narrow wheelbase that had defined GMC trucks since… Read more

  • No. 153: Pump Like An Egyptian

    September 8, 2020 by

    Pause for a moment, fellow traveler, to give a hat-tip to Ctesibius. Or should that be a nemes* tip? Ctesibius was an inventor in Egypt during the second century BCE. (That was the Ptolemaic Dynasty, of course.) He’s credited with creating the first force pump, a machine to move water. Without Ctesibius, our nation’s fire… Read more

  • No. 152: Oozin’ and Cruisin’ in My 88

    August 27, 2020 by

    Perhaps you can hear the song through the dusty old windows: “You women have heard of jalopies/You heard the noise they make/Let me introduce you to my Rocket ’88… Oldsmobile introduced the Rocket 88 in 1949. It fit neatly between two brands already on the roadways, the Olds 78 and 98. The Rocket also introduced… Read more

  • No. 151: Stodgy Dodge

    August 21, 2020 by

    How many seasons has it rested here, the prairie wind sharp and whistling because nothing stands in its way except the battered sides of this old Dodge pickup? When did its owner finally walk away without a final glance? What did it haul? Where did it go? What human activities took place in its 6.5-foot… Read more

  • No. 150: Intentionally International Tough

    August 20, 2020 by

    International trucks. The words conjure images of large, no-nonsense machines operated by large, no-nonsense guys – the sort of hauler you’d see at the dump, the warehouse, the docks. And those images were accurate: The International was … …well, built to work. It was what the plumber drove; his might have a utility body that… Read more

  • No. 149: Bonded, Not Bondo’d

    December 29, 2019 by

    They just never stop working. A truck built nearly seven decades ago may have started life carrying produce to the market, cinder blocks to the job, hay to the cattle. But time slows even the best machines. And so this 1951 Chevy 3100 Thriftmaster has taken on an easier life: as a billboard to a… Read more

  • No. 148: Ho-Ho Hauler

    December 25, 2019 by

    A few years ago I volunteered my truck to pick up discarded Christmas trees and take them to a chipper. It was a Cub Scout fund-raiser. I was the Cubmaster. I had to lead by example. And so, on a chilled Saturday morning just after New Year’s Day, I jumped in my truck’s cold cab.… Read more

  • M-m-m-my Miata

    October 18, 2019 by

    Oldcarguy had a familiar gleam in his eye that day last summer when he returned from Scout camp with the Baby Boy. His crush was petite, curvy, shiny, sporty — a jet-black 1999 Mazda Miata. One of the other Scout dads was selling it. He had a family of young boys who still wanted to… Read more

  • Agrarian Edition No. 11: A Tough MF

    October 15, 2019 by

    The evidence is right there – there, where the soil is slowly swallowing a flat tire. This machine hasn’t moved in a long time. But when it did, this Massey Ferguson 175 was a workhorse – short on glamor, long on guts. MF rolled out the 175 in 1964; for 11 years, it was the… Read more

  • No. 147: Hauler Of All

    September 24, 2019 by

    Someone got it this far. Then, nature did what it always does: Its green tendrils reached out. With leaf and limb, it drew the machine close. Peeking from all this foliage is a first-edition Dodge D100 pickup. The D100 marked a styling departure from the mid-‘50s Job Rated machines – wider, not as tall, a… Read more

  • No. 146: Abandoned at the River

    September 24, 2019 by

    The river runs west, then north for a ways, past Stockton. It flows across land flat as a pool table, with mountains in the distance. On clear days, those peaks appear a lot closer than they are. Natives know this. What else they know: The land is filled with old heaps. Did the Okies discard… Read more

  • No. 145: Dodge Goes to War

    July 25, 2019 by

    It’s well known that America was hardly ready for a global conflict when one crash-landed on its lap on Dec. 7, 1941. Our nation had to gear up, and fast, for a war that would spread across oceans and continents. That included building trucks. Dodge responded with the WC, a series of half- and three-quarter-ton… Read more

  • No. 144: The Loadmaster

    July 24, 2019 by

    It was running when I parked it, No. 144: The Loadmaster. This old hoss carried melons from the farms of south Georgia to the freight yards of Atlanta. It trundled bundles of bright leaf to warehouses in Greenville and Rocky Mount. It carried pumpkins from central Michigan to trucking terminals in Kalamazoo. It took hardhatted… Read more

  • No. 143: A Fleeting Moment Before the War

    July 22, 2019 by

    The Chevrolet Fleetline bowed in 1941 … just in time for Chevy executives to shelve the automaker’s family-car-for-all and turn their attention to making tanks. Plans for a roomy, inline-6-powered car with three speeds on the column languished until the end of World War II. By 1947, Chevrolet was going full-tilt making an array of… Read more

  • No. 142: Hey, Opel, What’s That?

    June 10, 2019 by

    The little car bowed in American in 1958. It was a boxy thing, underpowered and underwhelming, a reminder that most European cars could not compete on our superhighways. In time, we came to know the line for three distinct models: the Kadett, the Manta and the GT – the third a dead ringer for a… Read more

  • No. 141: Not Seeing the USA

    May 20, 2019 by

    Chevrolet turned its back on the tri-fives of the mid-‘50s and concentrated on a new machine – the Impala, a car as massive as its namesake was sleek. After one year, Chevy changed the design and produced a longer, lower car. Its trademark feature: twin rear fins that arched like angry eyebrows. The model had… Read more

  • No. 140: No Love for This Bug

    March 28, 2019 by

    It was called the “people’s car,” or volkswagen. Its origins date to the late 1930s, when a restive Germany and its fanatical leader dreamed of world conquest. In the early and mid-1940s, the rear-engine vehicle was part of that global war effort. In the late 1940s, the people’s car renewed life as civilian transportation. By… Read more

  • No. 139: Plying the Roads No More

    March 14, 2019 by

    We’d settled into post-war prosperity. American factories churned out the greatest product in the world, steel, and that material rendered up an astonishing array of wide cruisers. Some, like Cadillac and Lincoln, steered toward folks with money. Chevrolet and Ford were cars for those who one day would move up to a Caddy or Lincoln.… Read more

  • No. 138: A Rusted Enigma

    March 5, 2019 by

    Chevrolet had struck a decisive blow in the late 1920s when it put an inline 6 under the heavy hoods of its cars and trucks. The more-powerful engine caught Ford by surprise, but not for long: In 1932, the Dearborn manufacturer responded with the flathead V-8, tucked in a cute little package that would morph… Read more

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